Guide to stardom

Guide to stardom

A  recent retrospective of Waheeda Rehman ran to packed shows at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. The audience went into raptures watching the classy actress perform in Pyasa, Chaudhuvian Ka Chand and Guide. She brought back memories of the golden era in Indian Cinema.

Beauty, intelligence and talent combined, Waheeda Rehman created a sensation unknown to the Rani Mukherjees, Katrina Kaifs and Priyanka Chopras of the present generation.

What is so special about Waheeda Rehman that her films are loved even today? In all fairness, she has never been an actress of the calibre of Meena Kumari, Nutan or Smita Patil. The fact remains that Waheeda Rehman understood her strength and limitations very well.

She accepted characters according to her merit and liking. Besides, she was very well directed by stalwarts like Guru Dutt, Vijay Anand, Basu Bhattacharya and Satyajit Ray. She was paired very successfully opposite Dev Anand, Dilip Kumar, Raj Kapoor, Sunil Dutt and even Amitabh Bachchan.

A naturally gifted performer, Waheeda Rehman was spotted by Guru Dutt in a dance drama at Hyderabad in 1955. Guru Dutt offered her the meaty character of Kamini, a vamp with a golden heart, in his production CID. Though initially hesitant, she ultimately agreed to opt for a career in film after Guru Dutt’s persuasion. Her director was Raj Khosla and the hero — Dev Anand.

Waheeda Rehman strongly opposed Raj Khosla’s idea of exposing her back in CID. This led to differences and Raj Khosla was annoyed. Guru Dutt and Dev Anand stepped in to solve the issue and Raj Khosla decided to shoot the film without any exposure. So well did he work on her that never did it appear that CID was her debut film.

There was no looking back for Waheeda Rehman from then. Guru Dutt utilised her talent in film after film like Pyasa, Kagaz Ke Phool, Chaudhvin Ka Chand and Saheb, Biwi Aur Ghulam. Waheeda Rehman scored with her intensity, serenity and dedication. Her dances were delightful and her eyes spoke volumes along with her low-key modulated dialogue delivery.

So effective was she that Satyajit Ray personally wrote to Filmfare asking about her whereabouts. Guru Dutt encouraged her to work with India’s greatest director. She was paired opposite the versatile Soumitra Chatterjee in Abhijan. No one can forget her faultless mudras as she smiled and said melodiously, “Toke Naach Dekhabo Babuji” to Soumitra Chatterjee in Abhijan.

After Guru Dutt’s sad demise in 1964, Vijay Anand used Waheeda Rehman’s talent to the hit. Filming R K Narayan’s classic Guide was the greatest challenge for young Vijay Anand. Vijay Anand literally pulled Waheeda Rehman out of her middle-class inhibitions during the cave scene in Guide as she yelled, “Marco, mein jeena chahati hoon.”

Waheeda was intelligent enough to mature gracefully with age in the ‘70s and shift to character roles with Phagun,Trishul and Namkeen. Of late, she has hardly appeared in any film. Her talents were highly misused by Aparna Sen in 15 Park Avenue and she showed flashes of brilliance in Rang De Basanti.

After almost six glorious decades in films, one hardly ever hears Waheeda Rehman paying any tribute to Vijay Anand, who did so much to highlight the actress in her. She does not have a word of praise for Raj Khosla, who worked wonders with her in CID and Solva Saal. She has totally forgotten Raj Kapoor, who insisted that director Basu Bhattacharya give her more footage than originally planned in Teesri Kasam. The most astonishing aspect is that she calls the present era the golden period of Indian cinema.

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